Civil and Political Rights
Promoting Respect for Human Rights:
Promoting respect of human rights is one of principal programmes of TRC. It focuses much on strengthening human rights institutions and oversight bodies to protect, promote and respect human rights of citizens. Furthermore the programme facilitates that victims of human rights violations also get redress. Thus with the programme TRC facilitates that the human rights violations exposed are documented. The programme of promoting respect of human rights comprises of the components which stand as follows;
- advocacy for independence of human rights commission
- Advocacy for independence of oversight bodies in protection and promotion of human rights
- Monitoring, document and report human rights violations
- Facilitating counselling and support to army abuse victims
- Training of community paralegals and liaise with the law clinics for redress of human rights violations
Advocacy for independence of Human Rights Commission: Lesotho does not have the functional human rights commission, this is despite of disturbingly high levels of human rights violation incidences in the country. In 2016, parliament passed the Human Rights Act. However the Act does not comply with international standards. Hence the Centre advocates for establishment of legislative parameters that protect the Commission from either political influence or intimidation when it undertakes its operations.
Advocacy for independence of oversight bodies in protection and promotion of human rights: Besides human rights commission, the country has Ombudsman, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) as well as Police Complaints Authority (PAC). These institutions are referred as oversight bodies, their focus on protection of citizens’ rights is very much limited. One of the purpose of the Human Rights Programme is to empower the oversight bodies to effectively protect rights of citizens. Under the Human Rights Programme the Centre engages stakeholders such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), members of parliament (MPs) line ministries and public officials working for these oversight bodies, to advocate for their strengthening in terms of independence and autonomy.
Monitoring, document and report human rights violations: complementarily to advocacy work, TRC documents and reports human rights incidences of violations. The country as signatory to various treaties has an obligation to report on state’s compliance on human rights protection. Despite that human rights violations are unreported and undocumented. The purpose of monitoring, documenting and reporting these violations basically is to expose them.
Facilitating counselling and support to army abuse victims: Subsequent to attempted military coup in 2014, SADC commission of inquiry was established to investigate human rights violations inflicted on soldiers who resisted the coup. The soldiers were severely tortured, injured and detained for two and half years, until recently (in 2017) when they were transferred to open-arrest arrangement (that means given a bail with very strict conditions). Recently they have been acquitted and their leave of absence has been cancelled to pave way for reintegration process which is part of grant process of stabilising and normalising national army. Despite recent developments achieved they have never received adequate support in terms of counselling for trauma and reparations for injustices experienced. Thus TRC has aimed at giving the soldiers and their families counselling sessions, of which will provide the organisation opportunity to document stories and experiences that need to be used to inform security reforms envisaged by SADC Recommendation to Lesotho government.
Training of community paralegals and liaise with the law clinics for redress of human rights violations: TRC theory of change in participatory development adopts the methodology of Training for Transformation (T4T). According to the T4T communities must be empowered to be the ones who lead their transformation, thus in human rights context they should basically drive the struggle for protection of the human rights, in an effort to empower victims of violations of human rights the Centre trains communities’ paralegals.
Strengthening of Human Rights Institutions
Under this result, the Human Rights Programme must ensure that human rights are protected and where there are violations, there are reparations. The programme advocates and lobby for strong and effective human rights protective mechanisms. Special advocacy is on the establishment of a fully-fledged Human Rights Commission in Lesotho which shall protect both socio-economic and cultural rights and the first generation of rights. The advocacy seeks to secure an establishment of Paris Principles compliant Human Rights Commission.
The programme further advocates for independence of oversight bodies in protection and promotions of human rights. Besides the Human Rights Commission, Lesotho has other oversight institutions such as Ombudsman, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences, Police complaints Authority. The mentioned institutions are very weak in fulfilling their mandate of protecting human rights. The Unit is intended to empower them to effectively protect and promote human rights. This Unit further engages with relevant stakeholders to lobby them to grant independence and autonomy in the founding statutes of these institutions.
Human Rights Respect
It is a common knowledge that the main obligation of the state as duty bearer is to protect human rights. However, a practice in Lesotho has been that the state is the principal violator of human rights. Under this result, there must be a close monitoring, documenting and reporting of human rights violations. Human rights violations remain unreported and undocumented. They happen at all levels of society; at national and community levels. The purpose is to document and report these violations with a view to expose them and assist victims and those affected to get redress.
The result wants to see paralegals being identified within project site who shall be equipped with necessary skills to identify and report human rights violations within their communities. They shall further be capacitated on mediation and conciliation skills when there are disputes within their communities.
This unit also focuses on soldiers and their families dealing with trauma they have experienced. It seeks to ensure that all victims get redress. And most importantly, that those soldiers fully partake in the National Reforms especially security reforms and ensure that SADC recommendations are implemented fully.
Between 2014 and 2015, some members of the Lesotho Defence Force accused of mutiny were kidnapped, tortured and incarcerated at Maximum Prison while others skipped the country to neighbouring South Africa. SADC Commission of Inquiry was established to investigate human rights violations and other circumstances leading to their incarceration. TRC complementarily advocated for the implementation of SADC recommendations. Commission made findings that there was no evidence that there was ever a mutiny. The commission made observations that the mutiny charges were a mere fabrication. The Centre further instituted a team of lawyers both local and from South Africa to handle the lawsuits of the mutiny accused soldiers. Counselling sessions were also organised for both the soldiers and their families to help them deal with the ordeal. Through TRC’s lobbying, advocacy, litigation and counselling the accused were freed later on the 17th December 2017. The Court Martial dismissed the mutiny case for want of evidence that mutiny was committed or about to be committed. Hitherto those soldiers and their families which rights had been violated had not received adequate support in terms of counselling and reparations.